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Mr. Snyder's Opus

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Lamar-Dukes and other parents brought the band back to its room at Hallandale High, the site of so many Snyder lessons.

"You're dealing with a lot of emotions," Lamar-Dukes says. "You have some kids who are very angry about what was going on. A lot of them were crying. There were tears of not understanding. We had to go to the band room and just let them talk it out, let them process it."

Of course, the students were not blind to the racial component. "The kids see a lot of police officers who are white doing this to their band director, who is black," Lamar-Dukes says. "They say, 'This is a Rodney King thing.' Basically, they feel 'If it happened to him, it could be me as well. '"


Snyder never even considered a guilty plea. Not after prosecutors tried to induce one by reducing the felony charges to misdemeanors. Not even after his attorney warned him that, by taking the case to trial, he faced the possibility of two years in prison and a minimum of 60 days.

Snyder wanted to keep his teaching license, and pleading to the misdemeanor meant accepting a suspension, if not permanent revocation. But perhaps more than that, Snyder had a point to make. "Whatever the police think, my school, my kids, and my family, they know the truth," he says. And for their sake and his own, he had to stand up in his own defense.

That the arrest and beating took place in front of the band, their parents, and his professional colleagues was humiliating for Snyder the band director. But as a defendant, the circumstances were heaven-sent. Scores of witnesses could corroborate Snyder's version of events.

Lamar-Dukes had joined Snyder in dashing from the stands to break up the fight. At trial, she testified that Snyder never struck the police officer, that he appeared cooperative. Another parent, Kerris Delgado, said the same, as did the vice president of the Hallandale Band Parents Association, Myrna Sims.

The clincher, perhaps, was the testimony of Robert Scott, who had originally shown up in Snyder's case as a witness for the state, based on an interview he gave police shortly after the incident. At a subsequent deposition, however, Scott would testify that the police interviewer never asked him whether Snyder had struck Williams, nor did the interviewer read Scott the affidavit Williams filed in the case.

"No, he did not," Scott testified, "because if he would have, I would have told him then that they was lying."

Scott, a volunteer who had been leading Stranahan off the field when the altercation began, did not know Snyder. But he remembered Snyder's appearance, how he was facing Scott when police arrived. "At this time, when they grabbed him," Scott testified, "I guess Mr. Snyder thought that was the student, so he did shake... but he didn't — like, it was no force to hit anybody. He shook when he realized — when he said, 'No, no, no, no, not me,' but I don't know why [police] would even say that pack of lies... They went against their own law."

The allegation that Snyder tried to stand up after being taken down is also false, Scott testified. "You have to understand... it was two police officers that grabbed at the same time and took him to the ground. One had his knee in his back, had him down the whole time, so I don't see how they can say that he tried to get up, because they had him pinned."



Predictably, Scott was dropped from the state's witness list. He remembers fielding a call from a detective who wanted to conduct a deposition over the phone, "but when I was getting to the part to what actually happened, he cut the conversation, 'OK. that's all I wanted to hear. Thank you very much,' and hung up the phone."

Ultimately, the police version of the story was overwhelmed by witnesses who told another version, in which the cop was the aggressor. Snyder was acquitted on all charges.

A county School Board investigator who looked into the incident would find no cause for penalizing Snyder.

In fact, the only parties who may yet feel repercussions are police officers. A spokesman for the Fort Lauderdale police confirmed that the incident is now under active investigation by its Division of Internal Affairs. This means that no police officers are free to speak of it publicly, including Williams and Sandman.

So far, Williams has had good luck with Internal Affairs. A public records request by New Times shows that seven complaints have been filed against him, including a 2002 case in which he was accused of "bias-based policing," two separate allegations of false arrest in 2003, and allegations of excessive force in 2004 and 2006. In each instance, Internal Affairs cleared him of wrongdoing.

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Thomas Francis